Happy with your day job? If so, you’re in the minority. 55% of Americans are not happy with their work and wish they could be doing something else, according to the latest study by The Conference Board, reflecting the highest dissatisfaction level in the 22-year history of the study. In just one year (from 2008 to 2009) [...]Continue Reading
Archive for “Plan Your Business”
Here are the two logos at issue:
Apparently, Jimmy has a great sense of humor and set up his company to sell some t-shirts and hopefully raise money to cover his college tuition (he did end up raising something like $100,000, according to Hurst). I love this disclaimer on his website:
We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under “The North Face” brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.
(Sound of author trying to compose herself after period of robust laughter)
Anyhoo….long story short, management at The North Face failed to see the humor in this situation (or apparently the difference between a face and a…. bottom) and actually slapped Winkelmann with an expensive trademark infringement lawsuit.
Hurst’s post does a great job of analyzing what the North Face would have to establish to prevail on their claim (something Hurst doesn’t think they will succeed in doing – and I agree with him).
But this does bring up a couple of really important points for those of us launching and running businesses.
(1) Don’t Use A Name That Is Already In Use!
When you are choosing a name and logo for your company, make sure to research whether that name is in use already (particularly in the industry that your company will be in) and make sure you do not create a logo that looks like one from another company (as best as you can determine). You need to search your state records for names (usually the Secretary of State’s office will have the ability to search LLCs and Corporations in your state; also search any other state in which you plan to do business now or in the future). Also search national records, such as the TESS at the US Patent and Trademark office. I also recommend doing a Google search for the name to see if the domain is taken (or any variation of it) and to see if anyone is already using that word or combination of words for their business already.
Right or wrong, big companies generally are not shy about enforcing their trademarks (as you can see in the North Face case) and you don’t want to end up getting a cease and desist letter from an in-house legal department just after you spent your last red-cent having your logo and branding designed.
If your name or logo could cause confusion between your company and one with an already established trademark, you could be found to be infringing on their trademark. If you are, you could be forced to change your name, logo, packaging and anything else that uses the infringing mark. If you have any market traction already, you would then have to rebuild your brand and lose the work already put into marketing the infringing name/brand/logo. Add to that potential money damages and attorneys fees, and not doing your homework about your trademarks becomes an expensive (and potentially fatal) detour for your business.
(2) Protect Your Own Trademarks!!
Once you are sure you aren’t at risk of infringing on someone else’s trademarks, make sure that you have properly trademarked your own logo, tag lines and even product names and packaging so that you have the ability to protect your intellectual property and branding if someone does attempt to infringe on your trademark in the future.
Generally, “use” of the trademark itself does give you some protection (use the ™ symbol as soon as you start using anything you want trademarked). That means, always include the symbol on your website, on all of your advertising, correspondence/emails with customers, and written materials at a minimum.
But the best way to protect yourself if to file with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to have a “registered” trademark (at which point you use the symbol ®).
Of course, I recommend hiring a good lawyer for this, as the paperwork can be tricky and you want to make sure it is done right. However, there are services out there that can help you file your own paperwork, such as Legal Zoom, so you have that less expensive option.
Just don’t decide to NOT trademark your branding. That could be an expensive mistake if someone else decides to use your name, logo or a variation of your logo (deliberately or without knowledge of yours). If you don’t have a registered trademark, you might not be able to stop them from using it, you will have less protection under the law to go after them, and might even lose your right to use your own name or logo in the future.
I’ve glossed over this because it is really fairly complicated subject, so make sure you find someone knowledgeable in trademarks to help you navigate this process. (And now for the required disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to give legal advice, so seek your own independent counsel for that!)
And if you have any experience with trademarks for your business (positive or negative), or questions, we want to hear from you so make sure to post a comment below!
You can read all of Hurst’s post at the link below.
I just came across a great blog post by a fellow attorney, J. Michael Hurst at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLLC. Apparently, 19-year old Jimmy Winkelmann created a company called The South Butt LLC, which was meant as a parody of The North Face. Here are the two logos at issue: Apparently, Jimmy has [...]Continue Reading
So what does this mean for small business?
If you haven’t jumped in on the social media bandwagon yet, now is the time. Customers and clients are using their blogs, tweets, facebook status updates, and more to talk about your brand. (Don’t believe me? Watch this.) With the birth of social search, these conversations will now be mainstream for all of Google to see. In other words, your customers will directly effect your Google search rankings.
Will Twitter be more business friendly in 2010?
Absolutely. Their real-time search collaboration is a big step in the right direction and Twitter isn’t stopping there. It has also launched a “Contributors” function (invitation only for now) which allows companies to have several authors send tweets under the same company profile. It is rumored that this may be one of the many new features in a “business class” Twitter account. These accounts would be part of an anticipated paid model launch in 2010. Also highly anticipated is the new emphasis on GeoAPI which will allow tweets to be seen with geo-location information. (Click here to read more.)
So what should you do?
Take advantage of this new opportunity to leverage social media in your favor by developing a listening strategy (read my post here for a how to), ensuring that your current web collateral can easily be shared socially (use AddThis or ShareThis buttons), and abandon spamming your marketing messages via your social networks in favor of developing mutually beneficial online relationships with key influencers in your industry.
Share your thoughts below in the comments! Are you using Twitter for Business?
Need help with your social media campaign? Contact me directly here!
I wouldn’t encourage the naysayers to start chanting “the wicked witch is dead” just yet, but there has been a definite decline in Twitter users. According to the latest research from eMarketer, Twitter posted a decline in users from 23 million to 20 million. How is this possible you ask? Easy. The honeymoon is over [...]Continue Reading
Every time I tell people what I do as a Product Agent, and then start describing that I search for products for QVC, TV and retail product placement, inevitably 90% say, “Oh, I have a product idea, I just do not know what to do with it.” It never fails, ever. Then I start telling them [...]Continue Reading
We at StartupNation want to take this moment at the end of 2009 to share our gratitude with you, our members and general site users. Part of our goal in writing this post is to offer you our winning strategies so you can use them in your business plans to develop your own success stories. First off, [...]Continue Reading
Are you having trouble keeping your employees motivated during today’s challenging times? Well, I recently caught up with human resource and leadership guru Theresa Welbourne, Ph.D. As the President and CEO of eePulse, Inc., www.eepulse.com, a Research Professor with the Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California and the Editor-in-Chief [...]Continue Reading
The fastest ways to bring your product to market is to get it on QVC! The best, and fastest, way to do that is hire a QVC agent! What is a QVC Agent? A QVC Agent is an independent person, or group, that can get your product or new invention in front of [...]Continue Reading
If you are trying to save money and start the New Year off right, there may be a secret problem lurking in your business. With the stress of trying to balance a budget, pay bills, obtain new customers, and have a life outside of the office, it can be easy to overlook one key element [...]Continue Reading
Excited to share the news: ABC News Now’s Tory Johnson just highlighted select winners from the 2009 StartupNation Home-Based 100. Click on the image here to view the interview or select “Play ABC Video.” I was able to mention these winners in the quick interview: Haralee Weintraub’s Haralee.com Joe Hansen and Cristy Stewart-Harfmann’s PricelessProfiles.com, and [...]Continue Reading
It’s 8:30 a.m. and you’ve spent the morning crafting the perfect e-mail to announce your brand new clothing line for dogs. You click “send” and wait for a response from the business editor at “The Wall Street Journal.” Now, it’s noon and still no response from the editor. You call and get voice mail so [...]Continue Reading
Ok. So it’s 5:00 a.m., and I walk to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee with my eyes half open. Ugh! I forgot to put coffee into the machine last night, and there is just a pot of hot water waiting for me. Oh well. I’ll make a fresh batch and use the [...]Continue Reading
In the process of promoting your products and services to potential customers, are you also promoting yourself? Competition is fierce today, and people want more for their money. This means that they are not just looking at products and services – but the people behind the businesses as well. With this in mind, [...]Continue Reading
Weird that I’d write a blog post about paying for content in a free content world, isn’t it?! Weirder yet that StartupNation has for years on end been a STRICTLY free content site and hosts many tens of thousands of pages of free content and features. So why have we recently launched a paid content [...]Continue Reading
If you want to increase your level of returning customers, there is one major thing that you need to take care of at the very beginning of every relationship – Expectations. This may sound simple, but if you don’t spell out what you are going to provide for the money, you can run into major [...]Continue Reading
Many new clients tell me that they have a blog, but no one is reading it. Other clients ask me if they need a blog. Well, if you have a blog, or are wondering if you need one, you may have these questions: • What’s the point? Before you start writing, figure out why you want [...]Continue Reading
As the “royalty” status of Hollywood stars has risen, so has their effectiveness as key influencers in consumer purchasing behaviors. Celebrity product placement is considered an “influencer-marketing” approach for helping brands increase their competiveness in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Marketers and small business owners can harness that power through strategic product placement opportunities that have [...]Continue Reading
With the popularity of performance shows like “Fame,” “Glee,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing with the Stars,” etc., it got me thinking. Ever see some of the performers warm up singing, “Mi, Mi, Mi…?” Well, this could be the theme song on many of the Web sites I review these days! Do You [...]Continue Reading
Ever heard of “The Conference Board”? It’s a global, independent business membership and research association. Their mission is to provide organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance, among other things. They do a study on a quarterly basis that measures CEO confidence, which had increased in the second quarter of 2009, and [...]Continue Reading
After working over 30 years in organization development consulting, Richard Lewine created a company called Quantum Voyage, http://www.goaltrak.com/, to help businesses and organizations reach their goals. Since many of you are in the process of setting your goals for 2010, I caught up with Rich to get his insights. Here’s what he had to say: [...]Continue Reading
This video does all the talking… [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8[/youtube] To make sure you’re leveraging this trend to its fullest, be sure you check out StartupNation’s new e-Report: Blast Through the Recession with Social Media, Mobile Marketing & More There are certain level points and junctions in business and the social media revolution we are in the midst [...]Continue Reading